|Casa Chiara House in 2004|
A day arrived in three weeks of this that I didn't recognize the house in its new skin awaiting paint. I couldn't choose. It wouldn't have mattered what color the paint might be. The color wheel spectrum gives us options now that only Dante imagined before while giving words to Paradiso. For some reason I still don't understand, the house no longer could be yellow. Green, perhaps? Like leaves, like moss, like grass before it turns. A swatch of green on new siding--but no. It appeared artificial on what had always been a living thing: this hermitage.
We turned the color wheel and both chose brown. We chose earth, the lightness of it, the dark. We chose brown, and still I woke in the middle of the night wondering, worrying--where would the sunshine be if the house were brown? Not brown, the swatches say: Briar. Khaki, Smokehouse. Virtual Taupe, Cobble. Sable. Down Home. Angora. Poised Taupe. Otter. Van Dyke.
Years ago when my dear friend and soul-sister, Alla Bozarth, asked me about my favorite color, I told her brown. "BROWN????" The decorations in her home were Russian Red and gold and black, intense blues, silver in some paintings on the wall, purple, mauve, a feast of color. Over the years I worked to make my imagination more colorful.
But we will paint Casa Chiara Hermitage two shades of brown with white trim, and it will be as though wearing the simple, earthy garb of Francis and Clare. When I think that the house might disappear from view up on this hilltop, no longer the yellow landmark it once was, I remember that fifteen years ago I was not so comfortable with the yellow until it came to have a meaning beyond itself. Brown tones have that meaning for me already.
For all this, I realize I sound as though I'm making my "apologia." You're right. I'm not comfortable with any of this at all. All my life I've been in awe of people who build their own houses, choose the shape and size and form and colors they most like. I'll never do that! I proclaimed with (now I see) a rather arrogant and simplistic certainty. Be careful of such certainty. I've seen too often how certainty is toppled and crushed under the earthquake of reality. We fall back then into the all-inclusive brown, the humus of earth, the shadowland of self we call humility.